Simpson case spurs studies about reform

Jury reform and cameras in the courtroom have moved to the front burner, with the State Bar and the Judicial Council organizing committees and holding forums to assess and reexamine both topics.

The O.J. Simpson trial and other high-profile cases have stirred interest in the role of the media in courtrooms, as well as the question of whether the jury system needs to be reformed.

Last month, the State Bar held two roundtable discussions in San Francisco and Los Angeles on the issue of jury reform in an attempt to solicit views from different segments of its membership.

Thomas Stolpman, chair of the Board of Governors Committee on Courts & Legislation, said a report on the discussions is expected to be ready this month and submitted to the legislature.

And the Judicial Council recently announced the formation of a 25-member blue ribbon commission to examine the jury system.

The commission, chaired by retired San Francisco Superior Court Judge Roy Wonder, tentatively has scheduled public hearings in San Francisco and Los Angeles in March and is expected to present its report to the Judicial Council in May.

A new Judicial Council task-force also will examine California Rule of Court 980, which specifies the conditions under which cameras and other electronic equipment are permitted in state courtrooms.

The task-force, headed by Justice Richard D. Huffman of the Court of Appeal in San Diego, held a hearing in San Francisco last month.

Attorney Kimberly Clement of Santa Rosa heads the bar's newly formed Task-force on Cameras in the Courtroom, which has been directed to review the board's position on the matter and make appropriate recommendations.

In 1980 the Board of Governors passed a resolution in opposition to cameras and tape recorders in the courtroom, saying the concept was "inconsistent with orderly court processes."

The recommendations of the task-force are expected to be considered at the April meeting of the Board of Governors.